Techdirt’s Mike Masnick is perhaps the most prolific blogger on the ill impact of overly restrictive legal regimes, including of course copyright and patents, but also trademark and even employment law (see Noncompete Agreements Are The DRM Of Human Capital) and often on people delivering real value to customers (sad that these are considered “alternative” business models) instead of replying on protectionist legal measures — as blogged here, Masnick’s case study on NIN is an absolute must read/watch — and he hosts awesome guest authors.
So it’s a little disappointing to read Masnick write:
I don’t use any of their licenses, because I don’t necessarily see the point. We’ve declared in the past that the content here is free for anyone to do what they want with it, and thus I feel no need for a Creative Commons license.
The need arises from the reality that sharing without standardized legal tools doesn’t scale. It doesn’t scale socially — if I wasn’t a regular Techdirt reader I wouldn’t know that Masnick had declared Techdirt content is free for anyone and for any purpose (and even now I could only find one such declaration because I remembered that Masnick had written about it in a post that mentioned CC!), nor depending on wording would I know what that meant. It doesn’t scale technically — there’s no way for software such as search engines to recognize ad hoc declarations. It doesn’t scale legally — any community or institution that requires legal certainty (eg due to risk that the community’s work will be suppressed or that the institution will be financially liable) will avoid ad hoc declarations.
It’s no surprise that in the more developed field of free and open source software (which has a 10+ year head start on free culture/open content) anyone who claims that making an ad hoc declaration is good enough and did not release their code under an established license would be laughed at and their code not allowed in other projects, distributions, and repositories, not to mention getting no attention from IBM, Google, Red Hat and thousands of other corporate contributors to and adopters of open source software.
Communities and institutions outside software also require works under established licenses (ie those provided by CC) to scale, e.g., Wikipedia, OpenCourseWare, the Public Library of Science and many, many others. What about individuals and small group efforts? Of course they don’t have to use real legal tools for their content any more than an individual programmer has to share code under an established open source license — that is if they don’t actually want others to “do what they want” with their content or code — because no license means no-understand, no-find, and no-go.
One of Masnick’s best turns is his stylized formula
Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) = The Business Model ($$$$). As he explains, each part of the formula has many facets — reasonable copyright terms are just one — and as he points out, in a sense copyright is irrelevant, as CwF+RtB would work in the complete absence of copyright. However, as Techdirt points out every day, copyright is in more than full effect, producing all kinds of anti-creative and anti-innovation effects, from labels suing fans, bloggers, startups and anyone else available to heirs suppressing the use of work by long-dead authors. In this environment it seems rather necessary to offer fans the legal certainty of an established public license that grants at least the right to non-commercially share. Anything less seems to betray a lack of respect for fans or, if done unknowingly, is an instance of failed sharing.
Of course one might want to go beyond offering a relatively restrictive license and not rely on copyright at all, giving fans complete freedom with respect to one’s works. As Masnick has noted, CC has developed a legally rigorous tool to do just that, worldwide — CC0 — we hope that he is still considering it.☺
The Techdirt post quoted above is primarily a solid response to another blogger’s post on whether CC is good or bad for copyright policy — a very worthy question. Masnick’s conclusion is good:
Many of the people behind it went through (and are still going through) numerous battles to push back on the excesses of copyright. Creative Commons wasn’t the solution — it was a helpful (and hopefully temporary) oasis in a bleak desert, following numerous well-reasoned, but ultimately futile attempts to push back corporate expansion of copyright. And while I agree that there are problems with shifting the issue to a contractual agreement (and the post highlights some of the many legal problems CC licenses may cause), I think that CC, as a whole, did turn a lot more people onto the some of the problems with copyright law as it stands today. In many ways, CC is an easy way for people to first start to understand the problems of copyright law, in understanding why CC is needed.
From there, many who do understand this have started questioning the larger issues around copyright — and many of those involved with CC have continued to fight that good fight, rather than just assuming that CC is “the answer.” So, in the end, I agree that we should be clear to recognize that Creative Commons and efforts to really rethink copyright are two separate things, but that doesn’t mean that Creative Commons is necessarily bad for copyright policy issues. It has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a real stepping stone to getting more people to recognize these bigger issues. In fact, I’d argue that many of the folks now leading the debate for more reasoned copyright policy in Canada first came to understand these issues via their exposure to Creative Commons’ licenses.
While CC and other voluntary efforts (such as free software and open access) aren’t the solution (if there is such a thing), their contribution goes well beyond serving as stepping stones for thinking about how messed up the copyright environment is. They are simultaneously tools for enabling billions of dollars of collaboration across organization boundaries and unlocking untold social value now and in proving out models that don’t rely on excessive enforcement, changing the facts on the ground in a systemic way that arguably should increase the probability of good outcomes relative to those likely to result from a single-track strategy of merely complaining about the current regime as it worsens.
Copycense, the blogger that Techdirt responds to above, has unrealistic assessments of CC’s ability to “muzzle” the conversation about copyright reform and of the ability of such a conversation to obtain the “best case scenario, with a balanced and effective law that serves citizens and corporate owners equally well”. Copycense is enamored with the current Canadian copyright consultation — it’s worth noting that CC Canada has been around since 2004, that Michael Geist, the most prominent voice for positive reform, is a long time CC user and advocate — one can hardly say CC has muzzled the conversation — and furthermore it isn’t clear the consultation will lead to any good progress. Hopefully good reform will result, and many involved in CC in Canada and elsewhere are also involved in reform efforts (if you read French see the consultation of Olivier Charbonneau, one of the project leads of CC Canada) — but to denigrate voluntary efforts, at least while some rather intractable problems with the ability of concentrated interests to hijack politics remain, is a gigantic missed opportunity at best, and possibly flirting with very bad outcomes.2 Comments »
For the past year, Creative Commons has been working on tools to help increase access to works in the public domain. Often, it is not clear whether a work has entered the public domain or is still covered by copyright protection. This lack of clarity can cause a lot of problems, and Creative Commons is not the only one concerned about the issue.
For example, WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) has begun research on tools for increasing access to the public domain, which relates to what we do at CC in several ways. Part of the WIPO research includes a comparative Scoping Study that will look at different countries’ legislation to see how how the public domain is defined and how public domain works are located. Encouragingly, Severine Dusollier, head of Intellectual Property Rights at Centre de Recherches Informatique et Droit and Creative Commons’ Belgium project lead, is in charge of this study. CC conducted a similar study last year and we’re paying close attention to how our results relate to WIPO’s. (Please note: the CC study is closed; no new input from the form will be accepted.) Part of WIPO’s study reviews private copyright documentation systems, including Creative Commons. Other samples in the study will include traditional collective rights management organizations.
Also of interest to our work at CC is WIPO’s expansion of a previous survey that takes an in-depth look at how deposits work as counterparts to a copyright registration system. One effect of registration, especially with a deposit requirement, is that it helps accrue a central collection location of works. These collections then contain copies of the works as well as relevant information necessary to make a determination of whether or not a work is in the public domain. WIPO’s work with registration and deposit systems is an important step in the quest to identify the contours of the public domain; however, not all copyright-protected work is registered or deposited.
Furthermore, finding information about non-registered or non-deposited works can be very difficult. For this reason, Creative Commons has begun building tools to identify, tag, and increase access to public domain works. Two of these tools, CC0 and the Public Domain Certification Tool, are already in existence and available for your use. A third, the Public Domain Assertion Tool, is on its way.
CC0 allows a copyright owner to waive rights in a work, effectively placing it as close as possible to being in the public domain. Finding works placed in the public domain through the CC0 waiver is easy, because CC0 is machine-readable just like the CC licenses. Our Public Domain Certification Tool can currently be used to indicate that a particular work is already in the public domain. But we are also working on a more robust version of this tool called the Public Domain Assertion tool. This tool will allow anyone to indicate facts about a particular digital instance of a work, giving individuals and institutions a way to participate in making our cultural heritage more user-friendly.
The tool’s output will link to relevant facts and a human-readable deed to assist users in deciding whether a work is in the public domain, and thus available for use without copyright restriction in one or more jurisdictions. For example, U.S. works may be in the pubic domain for any number of reasons but may not be in the public domain world-wide. Diane Peters, CC’s General Counsel, noted that the new tool will “increas[e] the effective size [of the public domain], even if due to copyright extensions works are not naturally added to the public domain.”
So stay tuned for the updates from the future of the public domain!
Aurelia J. Schultz, Google Policy Fellow and Joe Merante, Legal Intern
If you’re reading the Creative Commons blog, chances are you’re aware of the fact that the United States federal government is not entitled to copyright protection for their works. If you didn’t know this, check out the Wikipedia article on the subject, or some of our past blog posts on the subject. This means that federal works are essentially in the public domain.
What you may not know is that works of American states, in contrast to works of the federal government, are actually entitled to copyright protection under U.S. law. This creates the very awkward consequence of states automatically holding copyright in the very state laws, rules and court decisions that bind their citizens, not to mention other types of content created by its employees who are paid from public coffers filled in part by their taxpayers. CC is not alone (check out legendary archivist Carl Malamud and his public.resource.org project for more info) in believing that all such works should belong to the public and reside in the public domain.
Needless to say, we think this is an enormous opportunity for proper application of our legal tools to free up state works.
This is why its exciting to see the New York State Senate adopt a Creative Commons License for the content on their website. The photos and text of NYSenate.gov are now available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license, and 3rd party content, such as comments and user submitted photos are available under our Attribution license. Furthermore, the Senate has used our CC+ protocol to allow all other uses (even commercial ones and non-attribution ones) of the content so long as it is not for political fund raising purposes. In other words, if you’re not doing political fund raising you’re allowed to do whatever you want with the content.
While this is a somewhat novel approach to using our licenses, and indeed grants citizens rights to works they don’t currently have, it is only the first step. In the future, CC would love to see more states pushing their work into the public domain (and their policies into synchronicity with those of the federal government), for example by using our public domain waiver, CC0.2 Comments »
Yesterday the Register posted an article by Charles Eicher on the topic of copyfraud — asserting copyright where it doesn’t exist, or asserting more restrictions than copyright grants. A very important topic — true copyfraud diminishes the commons, either in the sense of propertizing the public domain, or effectively reducing the scope of uses not restricted by copyright.
Unfortunately, the article merely uses this interesting and important topic as a jumping off point for hyperbole. On the public domain and copyfraud, comments on the article offer far more insight than the article itself.
Eicher has in the past called advocates of Creative Commons “freetards”. Apparently he finds name calling more interesting than research, for on the third page of his copyfraud article he demonstrates willful ignorance on the topic of Creative Commons:
Now Creative Commons seeks expanded authority to administer the Public Domain, by issuing a “Creative Commons Public Domain License,” as if it was a sublicense of its own invention. Creative Commons is trying to expand its licensing authority over not just newly created works, but all public domain works.
Creative Commons does not have any “authority to administer” the public domain, whatever that means. Our public domain tools are not licenses — there is no “Creative Commons Public Domain License”. CC0 is a waiver that allows a copyright holder, to the extent possible, to release all restrictions on a copyrighted work worldwide. The Public Domain Certification facilitates clearly marking works already in the public domain as such. We also don’t have “licensing authority” over newly created works. All of our tools are voluntary and have an over-arching goal of expanding the commons, more specifically the public domain in the case of CC0 (as much as possible) and the Public Domain Certification (the effective public domain, by making existing public domain works more clearly marked, including with metadata, making them more available and discoverable).
Public domain licensing is still not available to any Flickr user. This forces everyone, from individuals to large public institutions, to contribute their works to the “Flickr Commons” under a CC license, even if the works are clearly in the public domain. Flicker is enacting a blatant power grab on behalf of Creative Commons. They are establishing an extra-legal licensing monopoly, imposing an illegal copyright license structure on free works. And this is the most pernicious effect of copyfraud: it exploits the public domain to aggregate monopoly power for private interests.
Except for the first sentence (regarding which, Creative Commons encourages Flickr to offer a public domain option for all users) all of the above paragraph is blatantly false. Images part of Flickr Commons are not under any CC license. The site’s easily accessible usage statement says No known copyright restrictions. Ideally the site might use a more affirmative public domain assertion, but it is impossible to characterize the statement as a CC license or as copyfraud.1 Comment »
The Creative Commons’ sponsored music community, ccMixter, has had a busy week.
DJ Vadim, featured and interviewed last week, put out a Call for Remixes for his new album U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun and the remixes are the community has responded in kind and some amazing remixes are starting to come in.
ccMixter is now offering the CC0 (CC Zero) waiver for sample uploads. (CC0 FAQ) With this waiver, musicians who upload samples of their work in the form of solo instruments (often looped for easy re-use) are indicating their willingness to participate in the vast public domain (like the World Wide Web itself). The CC0 license carries with it the most freedoms possible, or put another way, the least “friction around your work,” meaning, it’s the most accessible form of sharing available. James Boyle’s The Public Domain (mentioned here many times before) remains the best resource around for getting to understand the importance of a public commons, especially in terms of our culture and creativity itself.
It only took a few minutes for the waiver to be enabled on ccMixter for veteran member spinmeister to upload all the samples to an original composition under the CC0 waiver. “I personally like the idea of a world,” he explained, “where a portion (not all) of good stuff is gifted. I also think it’s pretty cool when people who have received gifts are making gifts to someone else as their ‘response’.” Read the rest of spin’s explanation in the forum thread announcing the arrival of CC0 at ccMixter.
ccHost 5.1 Release Candidate
ccHost is the open source project that powers ccMixter and is currently going through a release candidate phase for the it’s 5.1 version. The previous major version, 4.0, was the winner of the Linux Journal’s LinuxWorld Expo Product Excellence Award for Best Open Source Solution and has been very popular as a remix-aware, web management system for liberally licensed content. Last year saw the release of a major upgrade (5.0) while this 5.1 update marks a full year of real-world usage, making it one of the most stable releases of ccHost ever, with 100s of bug fixes on top of the 60+ feature enhancements leading up to this RC release. Those enhancements include many that ccHost sites have long been asking for, including support for OpenID log in and registration. This release boasts extensive admin control of licensing options, built-in special handling for CC0 waivers and support for Creative Commons’ latest license tools like RDFa scraping. For the more visually oriented, 5.1 comes with a new skin that mirrors the 2009 clean, simplified look and feel of the mother ship CC site. (See the release notes and changelog for the gory details.)
To all the ccHost-enabled site administrators and developers holding off upgrading from 4.x to 5.x, this is the stability release you’ve been waiting for. Please download the RC and send us feedback on what you find.
ccMixter Music Podcasts
In a forum posting from June 17, 2008, MC Jack in the Box, our resident double-agent from the very cool RemixFight (a forerunner and model for ccMixter) mentioned nonchalantly that he might have come up with “a cool way to build buzz for the playlists if people can record their own radio shows featuring ccMixter uploads. … I’d create a themed show, with me adding a few ‘hidden’ voiceovers to the show. Hell, I might even do a weekly ‘best of ccMixter’ kind of show if that could happen.”
Thus began the “Cool Music Show“, a weekly feature that quickly became the most popular way to discover new music on ccMixter. Every Friday, like clockwork, he curates upwards of 45 minutes of the best uploads from the previous seven days on the site. Last week, MC Jack posted episode #50 (!) to raves, kudos and much hazaa from a grateful ccMixter nation.
We decided to use the occasion of the 50th show to launch the new ccMixter Music Podcast. Using the ccMixter playlist as a basis, we developed the tools to create a single, seamless MP3 and post it to the archive.org.
To subscribe to the show, just drag this link to your podcast-aware music player (e.g. iTunes, Amarok, etc.).
We seeded the podcast with the last 7 Cool Music shows, but as explained in the announcement thread, we want other community members to contribute their own shows. So, if you have curating and MC skills you’d like to share, we invite you to submit a ccMixter music show of your very own! Instructions for how to do make and submit a show is here.Comments Off
We hosted our second community conference call last Wednesday, May 27. Donors were invited to join members of CC’s staff and board, including CEO Joi Ito and new Board Chair Esther Wojcicki, to discuss organizational updates, including CC Zero, GreenXchange, the future of the CC Network, and an update on the Wikipedia migration to CC BY-SA. We also took questions and comments from participants. The call was a great success and a valuable opportunity to reach out to and connect with our supporters; we will continue to host community conference calls on a quarterly basis, and anyone giving $250 or more will be invited to take part.
An audio recording of the call is now available online. Thanks to everyone who participated, and as always, we would like to extend a big thank you to all members of our community for your continued support!2 Comments »
Joining the likes of Flickr and the Personal Genome Project, Digg has now chosen our CC0 Waiver for their content. Daniel Burka writes on the official Digg blog about their choice:
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As of today, we’ve taken that one step further by upgrading our public domain license to the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) [waiver]. The CC0 [waiver] expresses that content posted on Digg is public domain even internationally. A minor point maybe, but our previous public domain [dedication] was only clear within the USA. When a friend from Creative Commons suggested that we move to a CC0 license, to even more clearly affirm our intentions, it seemed obvious. And, as we try to always do when we change something that affects the content that you (our users) submit to Digg, we’re trying to keep you informed about it.
“What is a shapefile?” you may ask. Its a file containing shapes mathematically generated by the thousands of Flickr geotagged photos of particular neighborhoods, countries, and continents. The data can also be seen as reverse-engineered fuzzy maps created by user generated longitude and latitude coordinates that are then demarcated by Where-On-Earth IDs.
Still confused? Its 549mb of uncompressed XML public domain geo-glory. Aaron from the Flickr Development team explains their rationale for using CC Zero:
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- We want people (developers, researchers and anyone else who wants to play) to find new and interesting ways to use the shapefiles and we recognize that, in many cases, this means having access to the entire dataset.
- We want people to feel both comfortable and confident using this data in their projects and so we opted for a public domain [waiver] so no one would have to spend their time wondering about the issue of licensing. We also think the work that the Creative Commons crew is doing is valuable and important and so we chose to release the shapefiles under the CC0 waiver as a show of support.
- We want people to create their own shapefiles and to share them so that other people (including us!) can find interesting ways to use them. We’re pretty sure there’s something to this “shapefile stuff” even if we can’t always put our finger on it so if publishing the dataset will encourage others to do the same then we’re happy to do so.
Spring is a time for new beginnings, and April’s newsletter will catch you up on all of CC’s many exciting new projects in addition to several milestones marking our continued growth and development as a leader of openness in the realms of science, education and culture, as well as internationally. This newsletter is chock full of interesting items, including the launch of CC Zero; updates from several international jurisdictions; GreenXchange, a project of CC, Nike and Best Buy; a new site for OpenEd that will provide valuable resources for the open education movement; and even a CC-licensed animated feature film.Comments Off
Creative Commons has spent a lot of time over the past year or so strategizing, and worrying, about the current state of the public domain and its future. In particular, we’ve been thinking about ways to help cultivate a vibrant and rich pool of freely available resources accessible to anyone to use for any purpose, unconditionally.
Our copyright licenses empower creators to manage their copyright on terms they choose. But what about creators who aren’t concerned about those protections, or who later want to waive those rights altogether? Unfortunately, the law makes it virtually impossible to waive the copyright automatically bestowed on creators. The problem is compounded by the fact that copyright terms vary dramatically and are frequently extended. Additionally, new protections, like the creation of sui generis database rights in the EU, are layered atop traditional rights, making an already complex system of copyright all the more complicated. In combination, these challenges stand in the way of the vibrant public domain that CC and many others envision.
Today at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference, our CEO Joi Ito will formally introduce the first of two tools designed to address these challenges. CC0 (read “CC Zero”) is a universal waiver that may be used by anyone wishing to permanently surrender the copyright and database rights they may have in a work, thereby placing it as nearly as possible into the public domain. CC0 is not a license, but a legal tool that improves on the “dedication” function of our existing, U.S.-centric public domain dedication and certification. CC0 is universal in form and may be used throughout the world for any kind of content without adaptation to account for laws in different jurisdictions. And like our licenses, CC0 has the benefit of being expressed in three ways – legal code, a human readable deed, and machine-readable code that allows works distributed under CC0 to be easily found. Read our FAQs to learn more.
CC0 is an outgrowth of six years of experience with our existing public domain tool, the maturation of ccREL (our recommendations for machine-readable work information), and the requirements of educators and scientists for the public domain. Science Commons’ work on the Open Access Data Protocol, to ensure interoperability of data and databases in particular, informed our development of CC0. It should come as no surprise that several of CC0’s early adopters are leading some of the most important projects within the scientific community.
The ProteomeCommons.org Tranche network is one such early adopter. “Our goal is to remove as many barriers to scientific data sharing as possible in order to promote new discoveries. The Creative Commons CC0 waiver was incorporated into our uploading options as the default in order to help achieve this goal. By giving a simple option to release data into the public domain, CC0 removes the complex barriers of licensing and restrictions. This lets researchers focus on what’s most important, their research and new discoveries,” said Philip Andrews, Professor at the University of Michigan.
Another early adopter of CC0 is the Personal Genome Project, a pioneer in the emerging field of personal genomics technology. The Personal Genome Project is announcing today the release of a large data set containing genomic sequences for ten individuals using CC0, with future planned releases also under CC0. “PersonalGenomes.org is committed to making our research data freely available to the public because we think that is the best way to promote discovery and advance science, and CC0 helps us to state that commitment in a clear and legally accurate way,” said Jason Bobe, Director of Community.
John Wilbanks, CC’s vice president for science, follows Joi Ito at Etech with a presentation addressing the role of CC0 in promoting open innovation.
Building CC0 into a universally robust tool has required the efforts and dedication of many over the course of more than a year. CC jurisdiction project leads in particular provided us with meaningful forums in which to openly discuss CC0’s development. They also provided jurisdiction-specific research critical to our understanding of public domain around the world. This support was invaluable to the crafting of a legally sound public domain tool for use everywhere. An overview of CC’s development and public comment process can be found on the CC wiki, together with links to our blog postings summarizing key policy and drafting decisions.
About the second tool that we refer to above, stay tuned. Funding permitting, we plan to roll out a beta public domain assertion tool this coming summer that will make it easy for people to tag and find content already in the public domain — increasing its effective size, even if due to copyright extensions works are not naturally added to the public domain.
Note, one small improvement we’re introducing with CC0 is that its deed and legalcode are located at http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/. The forthcoming public domain assertion tool will also be rooted under this directory. Thanks to everyone who reminded us that the public domain is not a license, and public domain tools should not be under a “licenses” directory!
A word of thanks to our pro bono legal counsel at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Latham & Watkins. Their legal review and analysis provided the heightened level of rigor that users of our licenses and legal tools have come to expect from Creative Commons.10 Comments »